Cyprus’ disgraced ‘golden passport’ scheme, officially known as the Citizenship for Investment scheme, is a story that just keeps giving with numerous reports and allegations appearing in the local media.
On 23 August 2020 Al Jazeera’s investigative unit broke the news concerning a leak of around 2,500 people who paid to become citizens of Cyprus under the country’s ‘golden passport’ scheme between 2017 to 2019 – and a 12½ minute video ‘The Cyprus Papers‘ referring to Cyprus as “Moscow on the Med”.
In a knee-jerk reaction to the story a few days later, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris swiftly condemned the reports on the Citizenship for Investment programme and implied Turkey was involved in an attempt to wrongly discredit Cyprus.
A second 50-minute video by Al Jazeera in October 2020 ‘The Cyprus Papers Undercover‘, which revealed senior MPs allegedly involved in corrupt practices, went on to earn Al Jazerra a bronze at the New York TV & Film Awards in 2021.
The story brings almost daily revelations in the local and international media:
Akel MP Christos Christofides has named five beneficiaries of the ‘golden passport’ scheme who made donations to the Democratic Rally party (Disy):
- Al Saaty Sabah, naturalised in July 2018, donated €50,000 in 2019.
- Salem Abukheizran, naturalised in December 2016, donated €40,000 in 2018
- Dmitry Chipliev, naturalised in 2014, donated €50,000 in 2017, and €25,000 in 2016
- Tarek Sadi Moamen, naturalised in July 2019, donated €20,000 in 2018
- Yan Lugen, naturalised in September 2018, his Cyprus-registered company Holimax Investments Ltd donated €20,000 in 2019.
The MP also gave details of law firms affiliated with current or former members of the cabinet that filed a total of 353 ‘golden passport’ applications on behalf of their clients:
- Nicos Chr. Anastasiades & Partners filed 57 applications.
- Kousios, Korfiotis, Papacharalambous LLC filed seven applications.
- Harneys (in which former justice minister Emily Yiolitis was a partner) filed seven applications.
- Andreas Demetriades & Co LLC (run by first-degree relations of former transport minister Marios Demetriades) filed 272 applications.
- LLPO Law Firm (in which Deputy Attorney General Savvas Angelides is a member) filed 10 applications.
The more positive developments in the ongoing story
Four individuals will be appearing in court on 12th September on five charges related to conspiracy offenses to defraud the Republic, influencing a public official in violation of the law ratifying the Council of Europe Convention on the Criminalisation of Corruption.
The four have been named in the local media as:
- Demetris Syllouris (former Speaker of the Parliament).
- Christos Giovanni (former AKEL MP).
- Andreas Pittadjis (lawyer).
- Antonis Antoniou (a director of Christos Giovanni’s company).
According to reports, 52 ‘golden passports’ have been revoked and the number may rise as further cases are investigated.
But fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low who is linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal who was granted Cypriot citizenship 7 years ago (and who also donated €300,000 to the Church) is contesting the case and still remains a Cypriot citizen.
No doubt more ‘golden passport’ revelations will emerge as the story develops over the coming months.